Putin opens annual economic forum in St. Petersburg

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he wants to expand economic cooperation in what he calls a "multipolar world." He kicked off the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Wednesday.

Organizers expect to welcome 17,000 participants from 136 countries and regions throughout the week. In the past, they invited leaders from Japan and other Group of Seven nations, but this year they are focusing on strengthening ties with India, China and other countries in the BRICS framework.

The Russian economy has stumbled under Western sanctions since the invasion of Ukraine two years ago, but Putin said growth in the first quarter of 2024 hit 5.4 percent.

He also claimed Russia will "maintain" that trend, adding that all those trying to be "detrimental" to his country and halt its development are, in fact, doing something that is "more detrimental to them."

Putin's daughters are also participating in the forum. Katerina Tikhonova, a business executive, will join a session on the defense industry; Maria Vorontsova, a specialist in genetics research, will speak on the relationship between biology and economics. Both are facing sanctions, including frozen assets and travel bans.

Putin has also invited another group under economic penalties. He is expected to remove the Taliban from a list of banned terrorist organizations and recognize its leaders as the legitimate "power" in Afghanistan.